Friday, July 24, 2009


We were undercover after the World Trade Center riots in Seattle. They made a movie about those riots, maybe you've seen it.

This was years ago, it was protesters vs. the police. The police won the first round with tear gas and clubs. They came on way too strong in my opinion.

About the time the real World Trade Center protest turned into a riot, police surveillance budgets were cut and there were only so many hours allotted for the police to do certain kinds of surveillance. New intelligence was required because another, more violent protest than Seattle's was being planned in Washington, D.C., the nation's capitol.

Therefore, private subcontractors like me, licensed private investigators, were hired to infiltrate the groups that evolved from non-violent sit-ins or protests, to well-coordinated forces of civil disruption.

Our objective was to gather info from the violent groups -- the ones that smashed the windows, threw the rocks, flipped the cards, targeted specific companies, broke laws. Words was, these groups were organizing into a militia that planned to wreak havoc in Washington DC at meeting of the International Monetary Fund.

There are a lot of well known national companies based companies in Seattle. Maybe you've heard of some of them, Boeing, Starbucks, Microsoft, to name a few. Many companies here have a stake in what went down in Washington DC. They wanted a peaceful protest and knew that was unlikely. At the very least, they wanted a way to protect their interests there.

My job, my partner's and the other undercover investigators involved around the area, was to infiltrate the groups and gather information about what was planned to protect both people and property that were targets. Who hired us was hired by a consortium of concerned citizens unknown to me.

The group's meeting was in a bad neighborhood, close to the Mission, where a young woman had recently been murdered.

My partner in the pretext was my own own husband, also a licensed investigator, and a vet with 15 years in the military behind him (hoo rah). When he put on a ball cap, jeans, a flannel shirt and flashed his huge grin, he was the good old northwest guy next door. At the time he had a full beard, the perfect look for the three-day training in civil disobedience.

We entered what appeared to be an abandoned warehouse. There were about 30 people in the room. Almost all of the group members were young, in their 20's. I was in my late 30's then,
clearly older than most.

We posed as married hippies who'd never grown up. We dressed the part, laid back. He did the Jimmy Buffet thing. I was more the earth-mother type, right down to the Birkenstock sandals with colored socks and a big multicolored rainbow bag dangling off my shoulder. I had a pony tail and peace sign earrings

We all sat on the floor in a circle. The leader was white guy closer to thirty, with a paramilitary air. He was dressed in black leather pants, black combat boots, a black vest over a black t-shirt. He topped off the look with a black beret on his black pony-tailed hair. He was stern and loud as as he spoke his first words. When he stood up I noticed the black leather fanny-type pack on his side and wondered if he was packing.

"Is anyone here a member of the police, media, or any other group here who does not belong?" he asked.

No response. Just collective nods of no.
He continued.

"Is there anyone here for the purpose of infiltrating this group? Does any one have a camera or recording equipment? Is any one a member of the media? is there an undercover police officer here?

More silence. More passionate nods of no. I sure wasn't going to raise me hand.

" Let me just advise you now. If you do not belong here, you best leave. Is there anyone here who does not belong?"

Again, no one said a word.

We were asked to go around the circle and introduce ourselves.

I said I was Lilly, introduced my husband as Bud. That earned a chuckle or two.
Said we were radical environmentalists, "old tree hugging hippies," I laughed, who'd been arrested twice during protests. I explained I'd been pissed off ever since ever since Ohio State. I said the police tear gassed me during W.T.C. and that was the last straw. I concluded my introduction by saying I was consumed by a fear that corporations would soon rule the world.

I got a good response from the group. Nods, smiles, welcomes.
Then it was my husband's turn to speak. They all looked to him expectantly.

"What she said," is all he said.

They all laughed and the circle stories continued until it was time to train.

It was a three-day crash course: how to be civilly disruptive; how to stage a protest; resist arrest; throw pies in someone's face; break windows; communicate in code; subvert; get bail. How to find emergency response teams.

We broke into groups and did role play.

In one group I was cop telling a stubborn protester to move. The protester said no, so I got tougher.

I pulled on his shirt, prodded him with the billy club I was given. I tried reason, logic, nothing worked. He wouldn't move. I chose to call one of my fellow cop role players for an assist and together we dragged him across the black line on the floor to an imaginary paddy wagon.

When it was my turn to be the protester, the pretend policeman I had was not as nice as I was. He told me to move while I sat on the floor in my pre-assigned cross-legged, arms-folded protest position.
I said no and gave him the story I was trained to -- about how I am an American and I am allowed to protest. And just before I got to the part about civil liberties, he grabbed me by my hair, took my pony tail in both his hands and dragged me across the floor.
I started to fight back.
The leader stepped next to us.
"Don't resist, Don't fight," he said to me, "They'll just make it worst for you. Just submit, speak with the guy, try to change his mind."

Trust me on this.
There is no way to reason with a guy dragging you by the hair when what you need to do is kick him in the nuts and say f.u.
However, I played my role to perfection.

I told him I was protesting for him, for the children, for the planet.
I told him it was my civil right to disobey and he was violating it.
Then I told him I was going to sue his ass if he didn't take his hands off me right now.
He let go.
I walked across the black line on the floor into the imaginary paddy wagon with all the other protesters who'd been pretend arrested.

The whole idea of the group going to the events was to wreak havoc in the name of civil liberty.
I learned how to be disruptive. How to break through security. How disrupt a speech. How to smash a window while avoiding any harm to civilians.

I also knew who the group was planning to target at the protests. What companies , people, and places were in danger and when. This was the information our clients needed. And I believe this is what prevented the I.T.C. from becoming another W.T.C. riot.

There's an old saying.
Some days you get the bear.
Some days the bear gets you.
In this case, we got the bear.

No comments:

Post a Comment